Koorie Heritage Trust Relocation to Federation Square
- IADV (Indigenous Architecture & Design Victoria)
This project relocates the Koorie Heritage Trust from its former King Street premises into the Yarra Building at Federation Square. The move meets the long term strategic needs of the Trust, and is a significant symbolic move of Koorie culture from the margins of the city to its centre. The Trust is a peak Indigenous organisation in Victoria and its new premises allow it to share its heritage collections, creates a place for the Koorie community to take pride in their identity, and where the wider community can come together in the spirit of reconciliation to celebrate living Koorie culture.
Place & Culture
The profound gesture of building visibility of Aboriginal local Indigenous culture here in Melbourne, brought with it the responsibility to embed authenticity.
At the core of the project was the capacity for cultural exchange and tangible opportunities for meaningful engagement. The collection was brought from out of sight to become the signature that envelops both visitors and staff alike. The desire to communicate that the Trust were the keepers of such a powerful collection, and that Indigenous culture is neither static nor fixed in time, became the catalyst for the headquarters to showcase a lived culture.
Set over 2 levels, one first encounters an inviting point of respite – to sit and meet, to take in Aboriginal art/culture.
From here one is drawn up through a constructed landscape, welcomed through an abstraction of a smoking ceremony via a super-graphic of the Manna Gum flower and a vivid blue ceiling, where Bunjil (the Creator) is encountered as the protector, perched over visitors as they arrive.
Along with sky glimpses, an initial sight of the Trust’s collection is revealed. Upon arrival at the top of the stairs a direct view of the life blood of the city – Birrung/the Yarra.
As the vista opens up internally, one cannot miss an evocation of the old ‘scar tree’ part of the Trust’s previous premises. The cultural resonance focuses on the notion of caring for country. By removing the bark of a river red gum to make a canoe, one only uses that which is needed. This is echoed by a 7.5m long, 1 tonne bespoke piece of joinery the gathering table. This gesture encourages everyone to engage through both tactile and direct ways with the Trust. Gone are the white gloves, in favour of active drawers and a place for demonstrations.
The design has sought to be light, bright, transparent, honest and clear in its expression, frugal yet richly expressed. The colours reflect nature – the sky, the water, the earth, the trees, with the textures and symbols
evoking connections to local Indigenous art practices, there’s not dots down here … The use of Indigenous language seeks to make normative the bi-cultural realities that co-exist to this day.
The scheme demonstrates that through a process of deep listening, collaboration and meaningful participation – Indigenous culture can be shared, celebrated and amplified.